A Long Walk @ Tokyo Station

Well, it must have been a longest connection walk mum & I ever did.
Even though, Keiyō Line (京葉線) terminated at Tokyo Station, a distance between Yaesu Exit and the platforms of Keiyō Line stretched nearly 900m, involving 20 minutes of walking.
Latter-day we learnt that the journey would have been much shorter if we traveled to the next station, Yūraku-cho (有楽町), using Yamate Line (山手線) and walked from there!

How ginormous Tokyo Station was, we were tragically unaware of then…

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So many shops within the station.
The concourse was lined with countless kiosks selling cakes, colourfully boxed baked sweets and bento box as well as espresso bars, juice stands, bookshops and even a small branch of Uniqlo.

Temiyage (手土産) is a distinctively Japanese custom.
Gift-giving has been a part of their social etiquette for centuries and it has developed into an art form.
In order to cater an appropriate gift for every occasion – for between close friends and families or for more formal relationships, for celebrations or for commiserations, Japanese retailers have developed sophisticated gift ideas to satisfy Japanese consumer’s insatiable eagerness to impress each other. Especially, at major mainline stations, people are more than happy to kill their time, wandering in & out of the kiosks and gift-hunting for loved ones and colleagues…

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A welcome sight of a travelator!
Overhead signboards for Keiyō Line kept on informing us how far (or close) we were from the platforms, showing “another 500m”, “another 200m”, etc…

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‘Isn’t calling it as Tokyo Station misleading?’ We grumbled as we dragged our weary feet.
We shouldn’t be walking this far just to change to another line. Ridiculous…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Kushihan @ Kurobei Yokochou

For our first dinner in Tokyo, mum requested Kushiage (串揚げ) – deep-fried meat, seafood & vegs on skewers, so we headed to Kurobei Yokochou (黒塀横丁).
The location of Kurobei Yokochou was best described as being sandwiched between Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit (八重洲口) and Tokyo Character Street. The area encased within a black-painted timber enclosure = Kuro-Bei, was fashioned as an alley which was lined with various eateries, creating a subterranean food emporium.

Before deciding upon Kushiage, we pondered if we wanted sushi at the world-famous Tsukiji fish-market. But in the end, an idea of piping hot kushiage skewers with a tankard of ice cold lager won us over so we hurried toward Kushihan (串はん), a kushiage restaurant in Kurobei Yokochou…

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At this eatery, there was no à la carte menu. They enquired us if there were any food we would like to avoid and the rest was up to our chef…

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For as a free starter, a waitress brought us a bowl of fresh vegetables each…

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The vegetables were crunchy and tasty.
Then, a steady stream of kushiage followed.
A quail’s egg and a prawn…

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There are two variations of “deep-fried kebab” style oil-cooking in Japan.
Kushikatsu (串カツ) and aforementioned Kushiage, are cooked in a similar manner – a bite size morsels of meat, seafood and vegetables are placed on bamboo skewers. Then, they are dusted lightly with flour first, followed by a layer of raw egg and finally coated with Panko (パン粉) – Japanese-style fluffy breadcrumb, once the preparation is done, each skewer is deep-fried in the pan with 160-170°C oil.

Kushikatsu is a popular street food from Osaka, Japan’s third largest city. The Sinsekai area is especially well-known for being littered with kushikatsu stalls selling deep-fried breaded skewers. The locals and tourists alike purchase a freshly cooked skewer or two, dunk them in a vat full of sweet Worcester sauce once (it will be a mortal sin if you dip the skewer again after having a bite – the locals will be VERY upset) and walk on. Kushikatsu may also be found at Izakayas (居酒屋) – cheap taverns as a part of inexpensive bar menu.
Comparing with its cheap & cheerful cousin, Kushiage can be more upmarket and pricy, especially in Tokyo area. At kushiage restaurants, an individual skewer is cooked by a chef like tempura bars, instead of being cooked in a bunch and kept warm at kushikatsu stalls.

Kanbubi (寒ブリ) and Furofuki-Daikon (ふろふき大根)…

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I had never had kushiage of Kan-buri – cold season yellowtail. The yellowtail around this time of the year was in season, therefore, the flesh was well-fattened and flavoursome. Furofuki Daikon – slowly simmered Daikon radish was another kushiage I never came across before. While the bread-crumb coating around the radish remained crisp, the chunks of daikon inside were moist with Sumiso (酢味噌) – miso with vinegar and sugar.

Chicken and Nasu (茄子) – aubergine…

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The chicken fillet was wrapped around cabbage. And a piece of bacon & cheese was sandwiched between a sliced aubergine…

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I forgot to take the pic of it but in front of us, there was a rectangular tray with 3 different seasonings – thick Worcester sauce type sauce, light soy sauce & sea salt. Our chef suggested which sauce would be best suited as he served us each skewer.

Shumai (焼売) – pork dumpling and Komochi shishamo (子持ちししゃも) – capelin with roe…

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I has eaten a few fried dumpling as well as steamed ones in London but never had a breaded one! Kushiage seemed to be a very versatile way to cook. Then, I was handed a skewer of Komochi shishamo – a female capelin with roe. The fish was well-cooked without being too dry or tough.

Then, we were served with salmon with roe and Tsukune (つくね) – chicken mince balls…

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Well, this salmon skewer with roe was my least favourite. The fish tasted a bit too earthy for my liking and sauce tartare with fish roe was a bit too rich. The chicken Tsukune balls were delicious. They were wrapped with Shiso leaf (紫蘇) – green perilla leaf which gave extra flavour to the meat balls.

By the time the salmon skewers were served, we felt almost full so requested the chef that the next round to be our final order.
All in all, we enjoyed a kushiage dinner at Kushihan. However, it could have been even better if the course included more vegetables, such as pepper, asparagus, carrot and onion.

Making ourselves comfortably full, we headed back to the hotel, longing for a hot bath and a bouncy bed to stretch out tired legs…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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